Arkansas Baptists, you are involved in supporting a number of hugely impactful ministries through the Dixie Jackson Arkansas State Missions Offering. One important aspect of ministry in Arkansas revolves around the prison system. Currently, a number of high-quality Prison Ministry Training sessions are held each year to empower Arkansas Baptists to reach current and former prisoners within their communities.
And now, an exciting new prison-related opportunity is on the horizon. Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary is located in Memphis, Tennessee but has many ties to Arkansas, and they are opening their newest extension here in our state. This extension just happens to be opening inside of a prison!
This strikes many as a bit odd when they first hear the news; the inside of a prison is not the first place many think of when opening a new seminary location. But in fact, a handful of other seminaries and states have had success with this model.
Here’s how it works:
- the students are inmates and don’t have to pay any tuition. The program is funded by partners (like the Arkansas Baptist State Convention through Dixie Jackson).
- The new seminary will operate within the Varner unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction.
- Inmates will work towards a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies. Students will receive the same degree given to graduates of Mid-America’s main campus.
- The program will begin in the fall of 2019 with a cohort of approximately 25 inmates.
- Most of the participants will have long sentences and upon graduation will have the opportunity to work with chaplains as “field ministers” in various units in the Department of Correction.
- Graduates who are released from prison will be trained to go back and minister to the communities from which they originally came.
The other seminaries mentioned above who have tried this model have reported remarkable transformation, not only in the lives of the inmates who become students but in the culture of the entire prison. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention is thrilled to be a part of this incredible new ministry and thanks you for your annual contributions through the state missions offering. The love of Christ is big enough for every Arkansan, including the incarcerated in our state. You are empowering great change in these lives, and we thank you for supporting state missions through Dixie Jackson.